Prince Charles to Succeed Queen Elizabeth as Commonwealth Head
Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles arrive for the formal opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the ballroom at Buckingham Palace in London, Britain on April 19, 2018. (Jonathan Brady/Pool via Reuters)
There have been calls for the role to be rotated around the 53 member-states, most of which are former British territories, but in recent days the queen, the British government and other leaders have backed Charles.
London: Prince Charles will succeed his mother Queen Elizabeth II as the Head of the Commonwealth after the heads of government on Friday agreed on his succession, a day after the 91-year-old monarch said it was her "sincere wish" that her son would succeed her in the role "one day".
The Commonwealth leaders reached an agreement on the succession of the 69-year-old heir to the British throne at a closed-door Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) retreat in Windsor Castle.
"We recognise the role of the Queen in championing the Commonwealth and its peoples. The next Head if the Commonwealth shall be His Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, the leaders said in their official communique at the end of the CHOGM retreat.
The issue of the future of the Commonwealth was expected to be the dominant theme when the leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gathered at the grand Waterloo Chamber of the Castle for the informal leg of the summit on Friday.
Prime Minister Modi, among the Commonwealth heads of government attending the retreat, is expected to have been among the leaders to endorse Prince Charles as the future Head after the Indian government indicated its backing for the royal to take on the non-hereditary role.
"India has no objection to Prince Charles as the next Head because he has worked hard for the institution. However, we are also clear that there should be no institutionalisation of the post," a senior Indian official said.
Crucially, the Prince has worked hard to secure the support of India by going out of his way last year to visit the prime minister Modi, to convince him to come to the London summit.
"India is a key and growing player in the Commonwealth, one of its largest economies with almost half its population. So its voice matters," the BBC reported.
The Queen, who would celebrate her 92nd birthday tomorrow, was keen to pass on the baton to the Prince of Wales and had said in her opening speech for the summit yesterday that it was her "sincere wish" that the Commonwealth will decide in favour of her son and heir "one day".
"For my part, the Commonwealth has been a fundamental feature of my life for as long as I can remember, beginning with my first visit to Malta when I was just five," Prince Charles said in his own welcome speech at Buckingham Palace, seen as laying out his credentials for the role.
"I pray that this Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will not only revitalise the bonds between our countries, but will give the Commonwealth a renewed relevance to all citizens, finding practical solutions to their problems and giving life to their aspirations. By doing so, the Commonwealth can be a cornerstone for the lives of future generations, just as it has been for so many of us," he said.
The Commonwealth is one of the world's oldest political association of states, with its roots in the British Empire when some countries were ruled directly or indirectly by Britain.
Some experts have argued that the end of the Queen's term as Head of the 53-member organisation is an opportunity for the non-hereditary post to be passed on to a non-royal in order to distance the group from its colonial past. Others, however, claim that it is the royal family that holds the grouping together.
British Prime Minister Theresa May indicated a decision on the issue was likely in her welcome speech at the retreat in Windsor Castle today.
"We also have a number of specific decisions to take, together with a broader conversation about the common future for the Commonwealth that we all want to see," she said.
Thanking the Queen for her "generous invitation" to hold the retreat in one of her many palaces, British PM added: "At the very moment international cooperation is so important, some nations are choosing instead to shun the rules-based system that underpins global security and prosperity Commonwealth can play its part to support this rules-based order, and the very concept of international cooperation."
A formal announcement on the issue of succession will be made by Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland at the end of the retreat, which will mark an end to the week-long summit in the UK.